One of the themes of Advent that we hear about in the Scripture readings is to be watchful and alert for the coming of Jesus. The Church calls us to be sensitive to what the Lord is doing so that we can make our hearts ready to receive the Lord in a deeper way.
We also need to be alert to the tactics of the enemy. We are in a spiritual battle, and it gets fiercer and fiercer because Satan’s time is running out. So we need to stay alert and vigilant at all times as Ephesians 6:18 tells us, “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all believers.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us that the devil is like a false lover who likes to work in secret. “…he tries to remain secret and undetected. For such a scoundrel, speaking with evil intent and trying to seduce the daughter of a good father or the wife of a good husband, wants his words and solicitations to remain secret.” (Spiritual Exercises #326)That false lover does not want the girl to go tell her father what the man is saying or else his gig is up. The seducing scoundrel wants to work in a hidden and secret way.
So, too, with the enemy of our souls. He tempts us and feeds us plausible lies, and he does this in the hiddenness of our thoughts. Ignatius says, “…when the enemy…turns his wiles and persuasions upon an upright person, he intends and desires them to be received and kept in secrecy” (Sp. Ex. #326). The last thing the enemy wants us to do is to share our temptations and confused thoughts with our confessor or spiritual director.
But that is exactly what we need to do! And that is the advice St. Ignatius gives us. The result of bringing those troubling temptations and thoughts to someone we trust who can help us is that the enemy “quickly sees that he cannot succeed in the malicious project he began, because his manifest deceptions have been detected” (Sp. Ex. #326).
One way we can do this is to go to the sacrament of confession. Are you feeling burdened or weighed down by a troubled conscience? There is nothing like the grace of the sacrament of reconciliation to bring you relief and peace. The enemy wants you to carry your burdens and baggage in secret. The Lord wants you to bring it to Him.
Do Not Be Afraid
Even though the battle can be fierce at times, we should not be afraid. God will provide all that we need to be victorious over our enemy. James 4:7-8 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and [God] will draw near to you.”
Our Lady of Medjugorje said in one of her messages, “Little children, do not be afraid. If you pray, Satan cannot injure you even a little, because you are God’s children and He is watching over you. Pray, and let the Rosary always be in your hands as a sign to Satan that you belong to me” (February 1988). And in a message in August 1985, “Do not be afraid of Satan. That isn’t worth the trouble, because with a humble prayer and an ardent love one can disarm him.”
During this graced season of Advent, let me suggest 3 things to do.
- Set up a time to talk to a wise, spiritual person in your life. Share with them some of what has been bothering you, especially anything that you have been tempted to keep in the dark.
- Go to confession. You might need to make an appointment with the priest, but it is well worth your effort. The enemy does whatever he can to keep us from this healing and freeing sacrament.
- Start praying a decade of the Rosary every day. There is so much power in this simple prayer, and the enemy doesn’t want us praying it. He tells us we’re not doing it right, or that it only counts if we pray the whole thing, or that we are too distracted, etc. But don’t let him deceive you. Keep it to a decade until it is a well-established habit and watch the fruit that comes from it in your life.
The Lord has special gifts and graces to pour out on us as we wind down this difficult year. Let’s do our part to prepare our hearts to receive Him in a deeper way.